Lollapalooza will always own choice real estate in the alternative consciousness, it simply won't own it any in venues across the U.S. -- again.| For the second straight year, the summer festival that helped catapult groups like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails, along with an entire subculture, into the mainstream is a no-go. Though organizers are promising a return to the fold next summer -- much like they did last summer -- some insiders believe that's a laugh-apalooza.
"They didn't cancel it, it never got resurrected," observes a band manager of a group originally in talks to play this year's Lollapalooza. "So, it's something of a misnomer to say it was canceled. The attempt to revive the patient was unsuccessful."
Why Lollapalooza '99 never made it out of the starting gate is of some debate. Some believe that over-confidence among the organizers is to blame. "All these things have had their cycles, and I think that, whether it's the H.O.R.D.E. tour or whatever, they get big enough that the producers of the event get arrogant and think they can squeeze the talent," says the manager. "Then the talent says we're not around, and they release it with no software, essentially. It's like a computer with no software is a f---ing lightbox."
The proliferation of radio festivals, too, has wiped away some of the Lollapalooza sheen, and become a viable fix for cash-strapped concertgoers. Today, virtually every major market hosts a festival sponsored by a local modern rock station that features a half-dozen or so blue-chip artists that receive heavy radio rotation. "The reason why my bands will do a radio show is there's a quid pro quo," says the manager. "You give us this, we give you that, we all love each other. Lollapalooza, we give you a dollar's worth of effort, what we're worth in the marketplace, and you pay us twenty-five cents."
This year, organizers were hoping to lure acts like Bush, Stone Temple Pilots, Eminem, Luscious Jackson and Kid Rock to the bill, but even that line-up seemed porous to some. "When you go after a band that can already do its own headline tour, the economics are a little bit of a sacrifice, and you have to find a band that really wouldn't be doing their own thing anyway," says a booking agent for two bands in talks to play this year's festival. "Whatever they could have put together, it doesn't have any zing to it."
Lollapalooza will almost certainly have a better chance of regrouping next summer with the announcement that Lilith Fair will hang up its X chromosome indefinitely starting in 2000. "We don't have room for a lot competing type of things," says the booking agent. "We focus on things in America. The Lollapalooza brand was it for a while. Then it became the Lilith brand, and that's it. It'll change into something else.
"The alternative culture has been absorbed into America so that you get it just by opening up a magazine," he adds. "You don't need to go and find it in a field somewhere."